Stommunity – now released as open source on OpenNTF.org

As you might recall we at IntraVision some time back quit running Lotus Sametime on-premises and switched to LotusLive. This wasn’t without issues and I also blogged about the apparent lack of public groups in my “Using LotusLive for Sametime – 2 months in” post a couple of months ago. After experiencing this issue I talked to Erik Vos from RealConnections in the Netherlands at NLLUG. Erik was also having the same problem for his SaaS customers so we worked together to develop a proof-of-concept Notes sidebar plugin called Stommunity to work around the issue. The name Stommunity plays on the words Sametime (ST) and (LotusLive) Community.

So what does the plugin do?

The plugin synchronizes your LotusLive communities with your Lotus Sametime client and creates private groups based on the LotusLive communities you are a member of (and that you select for synchronization). This mimics the missing public group feature of LotusLive Sametime. The below screenshot shows a Sametime client with 4 communities synchronized from LotusLive.

So how does the plugin work?

The plugin sits as a sidebar plugin in your Lotus Notes client and monitors your Sametime client for when it logs into LotusLive Sametime. Once a login is detected it reads the communities the active user is a member of using the LotusLive REST API and shows a list of the communities. The user may then select the communities to synchronize with Sametime. The below screenshot shows the Stommunity plugin waiting for the user to log into Sametime.

Once logged in the communities is read from LotusLive. In the below screenshot you can see that the user is a member of a couple of communities but only one is synchronized with Sametime.

After selecting an additional community and clicking Apply the community is synchronized to Sametime and a private group is created. The below screenshot shows the Sametime client after synchronizing the BlueExtend community with the Sametime client.

So why only a proof-of-concept and not a ready-to-roll plugin?

While developing the plugin we discussed the license implications of a plugin like this. When you sign up for LotusLive Engage you receive a Sametime Entry license which means you may not use the Sametime API which again means that a plugin like this cannot work (from a licensing standpoint). That alone made the project a dead-end and after working a bit with IBM on this it became clear that changing the licensing agreement wasn’t in the books. Due to this we are releasing the plugin as a proof-of-concept with open source on OpenNTF hoping that it may inspire someone.

Looking at the plugin as it is now I see a lot of potential. Of course the selection of communities needs to be pushed into the preferences but as a LotusLive customer it would be really cool to have. I imagine an auto-sync option being added as well as an option to just sync all and change (or remove) the prefix I automatically add now (“LL Community:”). Think of having a policy option to automatically make certain, company wide, communities be synchronized to all users (or a set of users). Maybe even controlled from within LotusLive. Now that would be cool and bridge the gap between the products. One could even argue that a plugin like this should be a standard component that should come bundled with LotusLive Notes.

Anyways – I hope it may inspire the LotusLive teams.

The Stommunity plugin may be found on OpenNTF.org and the code may be downloaded from the SVN repository. See below for links to each.

Links and resources

LotusLive Meetings gets a long overdue update

Very happy this morning to see that LotusLive Engage has been updated over the weekend. For me the most noticeable difference is that it’s now possible to specify that the meeting requires a password before hosting the meeting. A pleasant, although loooong overdue, change.

LotusLive – Your account has been updated. Really?!

Update 3 March 2011: Apparently being vocal helps. I was contacted by the LotusLive Support Manager and my issue was quickly resolved. Apparently the renewal of our company subscription caused a change in my account that required a technician to fix it. I was assured that they would look into the support process and that IBM understands that their support didn’t live up to my expectations. Although I appreciate IBM reaching out to me and the help I got it still leaves an open question was what happens with support down the road.

Yesterday morning (my time) I received an e-mail informing me that my LotusLive account had been updated. I later found out that this e-mail had been sent to all employees in the company because our LotusLive subscription had been renewed for another year. Later I also found out that at least 5 employees has been affected like this and are experiencing the same cloud fail. Below is a copy of the e-mail from LotusLive.

Hi Mikkel Flindt Heisterberg,
Your user account with LotusLive was recently updated. The
account is associated with the following company :
IntraVision ApS.
The recent updates are reflected in the following
information. Please take a moment to review.
You are currently subscribed to:
eXpresso? | 1 user account(s) | Expires on Feb 28, 2012
Skype? | 1 user account(s) | Expires on Oct 29, 2011
LotusLive Engage | 100 user account(s) | Expires on Mar 11, 2011

Your role(s) for this user account:
Administrator
User

Finally, if you have questions, e-mail us at support@lotuslive.com.
This e-mail was generated automatically. Do not reply.

Sincerely,

The LotusLive Team
https://www.lotuslive.com

LotusLive offices are located at: 5 Technology Park Drive,
Westford, MA 01886, United States.

Without thinking more about it I deleted the e-mail and continued on my workday as I was headed to Lotusphere Comes To You in Århus that day to present. A bit later when I was in the train heading to Århus I found out that I was not unable to log into Sametime which was wierd as Bleedyellow.com Sametime worked as always. I tried to sign into LotusLive on the web which brought be to a EULA of some sort which I quickly accepted and then boom! No LotusLive for me! I was greeted with an error dialog informing me that I couldn’t access that page and a message saying: “If you have recently registered, you can access LotusLive shortly when we have finished processing your request. Try logging in again in a few moments to start using the services.”

Logging out and back in didn’t do anything for me. Waited 20 minutes but still nothing – bummer!! Major bummer as my presentation for LCTY was in LotusLive so not being able to access LotusLive put me on the spot – and not in a good way. My account had been rendered inoperable and I was unable to access LotusLive at all.

I fired of an e-mail to LotusLive support at 11.23am to have my account fixed. At 11.35am I received a confirmation e-mail back from LotusLive Support telling me that the e-mail had been received. Then I didn’t hear anything else from LotusLive Support until 8.09pm last night! Almost 9 hours later?! Of course I didn’t see that e-mail until this morning so now I have been unable to access LotusLive (web or Sametime) for more than 24 hours and still no help from LotusLive Support. What is worse is that the e-mail back from LotusLive Support simply asks me about the error dialog that I’m getting – WTF! I just logged into their system so shouldn’t they be able to find a log of what’s happening to my account based on username? That’s how it works in most other systems.

So what’s the lessons learned so far? For now I have found a new crucial factor when deciding on which out-sourcing/cloud partner to use – where is the support based. It’s quite clear from this experience that no support personnel is based in Europe. Or they are extremely understaffed.

So now I’m frustrated and we have a couple of employees not able to work in LotusLive (no “Connections” and no Sametime). Not a good day for cloud services from IBM. I will keep you updated as I continue to wait for LotusLive Support to come back to me.

LotusLive Symphony now available on Greenhouse

As shown at Lotusphere conference earlier this month the artist formally known as Project Concord is now available to the general public as LotusLive Symphony. LotusLive Symphony is the IBM productivity suite but 100% web based without any required client install. Just like Google Docs or Microsoft Office 360. For now only document and spreadsheet functionality is available.

Given that I only played with it briefly it looks very promising and interesting. I especially like the way that it has been integrated directly into Lotus Connections on Lotus Greenhouse and as such functions as a natural extension of the Files feature of Lotus Connections.

Too bad no presentation functionality is available. I would have loved to do my Lotusphere Comes to You presentations from there… 🙂

Using LotusLive for Sametime – 2 months in

I previously wrote about how we shutdown our Sametime servers and moved to LotusLive for Sametime (“Why we shutdown our Sametime servers“). About 2 months after making the switch I thought it was a good time to sum to the experience and whether it’s a move we’re happy with.

There’s nothing to be said about performance or uptime which has been flawless. Users are happily chatting away and the worries that some had about being available for customer chat in off hours (because we are now in the same community as customers and partners) hasn’t been a problem. Whether it’s really not a problem or whether customers and partners haven’t found us to LotusLive is unclear. Only thing I’ve heard from users is that it’s a real pain no longer having public groups to help them maintain their buddylist. Previously many used public groups such as “Sales” or “Developers” to automatically maintain their buddylist but the concept of public, shared, groups are not available in LotusLive. That’s a real shame. Same goes for LotusLive meetings which has taken over from Sametime meetings without any issues at all.

All in all I haven’t heard anything from users that would make us want to go back to running our own Sametime environment.

Now from the technical side of fence I find the lack of groups really annoying. I also find the fact that file transfer isn’t allowed by policy annoying and frustrating. Using Sametime as a quick way to move a file between colleagues was really nice and having to resort to drives or e-mail is so 1990’s… As a LotusLive (Engage) customer

I’m also finding that lack of tools for automated user management (creation, modify, deletion) irritating and frustrating. I’ve heard about a LDAP sync tool or using TDI but not something I have found solid information on. The tools might be there and but they’re hardly easy to find or come by from my point of view. The result is that we have to manually make sure that users update their profile with current information which is time consuming and far from ideal.

In conclusion however…

Despite all this I still find that the move was a good one and I’m hoping that some of the above can be solved in the near future. I have a list of LotusLive questions lined up for Lotusphere 2011 so if you’re in the developer lab and know something about LotusLive I want to talk to you.

Why we shut down our Sametime servers

I have been getting shocked looks the last couple of weeks when I told customers that we shut down our Sametime servers as part of the move to our new offices. Why would we do such a thing? Well it’s not like we didn’t utilize Sametime heavily in our day to day work and it’s not like we haven’t touted the benefits of Sametime far and wide.

So why did we do this? Well it was a simple calculation of hours spent on maintaining our own environment vs. the benefits of having our own environment.

After installing Sametime 8.5.1 internally and getting it to run we realized that it didn’t make any sense for us, a 25 person company, to operate our own Sametime environment. A community server maybe but then what about meetings? (and yes we know about “Sametime classic”) It made sense from a training and test perspective but that’s about it and as we don’t mess with the production system for testing purposes we needed multiple systems. So it was actually an easy decision. So as of 3 weeks aro we drew a line in the sand and shut down all the Sametime related servers (all 5 of them).

Instead of running our own Sametime environment we’re now mixing it up by combining on-premise and in-cloud services by signing up for LotusLive Engage. We’ve registered all employees with our company account and we’re now using Sametime as part of LotusLive. As an added benefit we also get access to communities, activities and meetings as part of LotusLive and it’s great. We’re loving it.

Making the switch from on-premise to in-cloud hasn’t been without issues and questions that needed to be addressed. Some of what we’ve been discussing internally has been

  • what do we do now when there are no central groups for departments within the company?
  • what password do I use?
  • what does it mean to be part of a bigger infrastructure such as LotusLive?
  • what does it mean to be a network contact?
  • who can I contact on Sametime in LotusLive?
  • how do I control my visibility within the greater LotusLive network?

While some of these questions have easy answers some of them also highlight key weaknesses. For instance when moving from on-premise Sametime to in-cloud Sametime you loose public groups – there’s no way of adding all from Sales to my buddy list. You loose privacy controls in Sametime (who can see me online when). You loose the ability to see Sametime awareness in Lotus Notes applications as you’re known by your e-mail address in LotusLive and not your Notes qualified name.

Some of these points can be worked around and some can be addressed by training but some are more serious and needs to be addressed. The lack of awareness in Notes applications is severely limiting and frustrating – I hope something will be done about this. As to the groups thing I’m working with IBM and a Dutch business partner on addressing this using plugin technology.

Overall however we’re happy with the move and although there has been bumps along the way our server room is a lot quieter and we’re drawing fewer watts. As of now we’re one happy on-premise/in-cloud customer and we’re still chatting away in Sametime.

See it wasn’t as bad as one could have thought… 🙂

LotusLive annoucements – available in Danish plus some other nice stuff

The day before yesterday I was invited on a special blogger web conference discussing yesterdays press release on the new features announced for LotusLive. The conference was hosted by Ed Brill and Sean Pulley (VP, OnLine Collaboration Services). Among the announcements it was very nice to see Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Finnish to be announced as GA languages. Nordic languages among the first 15 languages – yahoo!! Very happy to see that.

Besides the language announcements the call showed some 3rd party integrations into the LotusLive “experience”. The integrations are provided by salesforce.com, Silanis (eSignRoom; demo also showed at Lotusphere), Skype and UPS package tracking and shipping label printing. From my point of view the Skype integration is the most exciting as it proves Skype as a possibility as a general purpose PBX in the SMB market. Very nice.

Showing 3rd party application integration highlights the need for the general availability of a SDK for LotusLive. We asked about the SDK but no promises were made besides what’s described on the business partner page at LotusLive.com. What was nice to see was that the 3rd party integration was split across subtle integration (Skype; action buttons and drop downs), full screen integration in the LotusLive UI (eSignRoom; integrates with Files and Contacts) and integration from another source with full SSO (salesforce.com). Good stuff and it makes me much more eager to see some information about the SDK. Gimme it!!